Sunday, June 27, 2010

Back to Earth

The inevitable has happened: I'm back at home, with the real world careening back into full swing.  The difference is, I have a work week AND a school week taking off on Monday.  There are going to be an array of challenges ahead, including the question of food.  Sure, I could live like a stereotypical dorm dweller, stuffing my chest freezer with Tostino's party pizzas, Hot Pockets and Stouffer's Mac 'n Cheese.  I could hoard cases of Top Ramen and 5 Hour Energy in the pantry, and bury them in take out menus for greasy chinese and Domino's.

Fie, salty preservatives!  I will not give up!

I'm arming myself with an arsenal of simple recipes and fresh, flavor-packed ingredients with minimal prep, cleanup and cook time.  Paninis, salads and pastas are going to be my best friends.  When I surveyed our garden last night, I couldn't believe what a difference ten days could made.  The lettuces had fluttered up and out into lush, vibrant heads.  The tomatoes climbed and burst through their cages, the yellow flower buds hinting at the bountiful harvest to come.  With the ingredients in my very own backyard, summer may not be a wash.

Looking back, I see I've been making a lot of burgers.  And why not?  They cook on the barbecue, my best friend for speediness, ease, and minimal cleanup.  You can mix them up with different meats and seasonings.  And who doesn't like flavor and carbs? Tonight I marinated Boca burgers in teriyaki sauce, which added a little more moisture, and topped them with swiss cheese.

My favorite feature of the meal, the way to make any of the usual burger/grilled chicken/shrimp skewer suspects pop, was the grain salad.  They're those beautiful concoctions in New Seasons delis and Whole Foods' world buffet that always feature a gorgeous grain and flecks of color.  They're fast to prepare, you're almost guaranteed to have some leftovers for the next meal, and they're ten million times better for you than boxed rice mixes.  Here's a handy guide for grain salads:

-Cook your grain (orzo, quinoa, couscous, Israeli couscous, bulgur, barley, Trader Joe's Harvest Melody) according to directions.  Use chicken stock in place of water for extra flavor.
-Let it cool to room temperature
-Add your toss-ins (dried cranberries, golden raisins, dried currants, diced dried apricots, sliced almonds, chopped walnuts, roasted garlic, minced scallions, green onion, minced carrots, roasted pine nuts)
-Add your chiffonade/minced fresh herbs (basil, tarragon, thyme, mint, thyme)
-Add your oil (olive, sesame for an Asian flair, or try a nut oil: macadamia, hazelnut, walnut, almond)
-Add your acidity (lemon, champagne vinegar, red wine vinegar)
-Add your salt and pepper (I used Goya Adobo seasoning, which is a salt-based seasoning with some cumin, cayenne and other spices)

Mix and chill, preferably for at least an hour before serving.

Now off to read books with good syntax and write some excellent sentences!

Sunday, June 20, 2010


Meeting and spending time with people for about 40 hours, and knowing them better than 99% of the people that you spend 40 hours a week with for a year and a half, is a disarming phenomenon.  I have talked to these new acquaintances more than people parked ten feet away from me.  They know my thoughts, motivations and personality almost as well as my cats do.  What they learned this morning, on the fast track to bffdom, was my love of baking.

No, I didn't bring along my flour, baking soda, raw eggs and Ina-approved "good" vanilla.  I brought a box of frozen Whole Foods scones, my biggest splurge at the store (aside from the $15 steak, $7 of which was leftover and is certainly now rotting in our fridge).  I stuck them in the oven on my griddle-slick stone, and the aroma was utterly seductive.  Buttery, sweet, crisping at the edges and bubbling in the center.  My muscles and bones and follicles were screaming at me to come back to bed, but the personification of morning kicked me back out. 

Paired with a ragtag salad of collective berries and bananas, it was the best breakfast in recent memory.  It actually tasted homemade, and definitely the closest you're going to get to it on a ten-day residency in a dorm room.  If only I'd had an oven in Elizabeth Hall... well, maybe things would have turned out differently.  But what fun would that be?

On the whole "academia" front, today was a bit bumpier than yesterday's euphoria.  It was our first residency workshop, my first workshop of this experience, and I was on the chopping block first.  The result?  A lot of things I knew but hoped weren't true, which basically means that if I'm going to write this book, I have to do it differently.  And that is hard to hear.  Yes, it's what you need to hear.  We shouldn't be here to be coddled, blah blah blah.  But I'm not great with criticism, even the genuinely friendly/constructive kind. 

So when my roommates wanted to go out for dinner, I didn't protest too much.  I needed to unwind, and a good release of laughter.  We started for Maggie's Buns to quell widespread coffee cravings, but finding the place closed, we had to search the limited streets of Forest Grove for alternatives.

At that moment, pivoting around the corners, a sign caught my eye.  "What about that place?"  I said, pointing across the corner.  "They have Coffee and Cake.  Cake," I reiterated, in case anyone was unclear.  As we drew closer, the words Middle Eastern Cuisine appeared on the window.  God damn it.  Now I'll never be able to eat that frozen food.  Just like Aladdin's at Concordia, a jewel of the east has crept across campus. 

We were ushered into an oasis of dark woods, sumptuous reds, minimal lighting and exotic condiment bowls.  Have you ever thought of franchising into Hubbard?  The menu was particularly interesting; it was peppered with German influences, including Schnitzel Shwarma.  Our waiter's accent was tinted with German, so there's definitely some notes of fusion going on here.

We started off with drinks and the obligatory hummus platter.  I've never had mint tea before (can't tell you why, because there is no reason), and I was instantly enchanted.  With the rabid mint plant in the front yard that survived the frigid winter and angsty spring, I'll have to bring this simple delight home.  The silky-smooth, velvety hummus was served with unique accompaniments including a cabbage salad, a corn relish, a spiced carrot salad (delicious) and, the very best part, a spicy herb condiment.  Marbled into the homemade hummus on oven-fresh pita bread, the peppers and cilantro were a match made in heaven.

In creepy groupthink fashion, we all ordered the same thing: a stuffed pita sandwich with chicken shwarma.  Except for Leigh (as in Vivian, who she so reminds me of - Southern girl and all), who mixed it up with buffalo.  The herbs infusing the meat droplets mixed with hummus and a raita created a new, unexpected flavor and texture in each bite.  Cabbage!  Rice!  Chicken!  Love! 

Back on campus: lively readings and loving book signs from Bonnie Jo Campbell and Pete Fromm.  Tomorrow, we move on to someone else's piece (thank god!!) and take a trip to a local winery.  Now, I'm going to try and reward my body with a smidge of sleep. 

Friday, June 18, 2010

Day 1x100

The concept of yesterday feels so far-off and foreign, I can't fathom that it could possibly have been 24 mere hours ago.  Looking back down the mostly linear, clean lines of my life to this moment on this squishy velvet-esque dorm apartment chair under an eco-centric LEED-certified roof, I can't pinpoint any other time I have packed so much activity, stimulation, thought, socialization and (attempts at) absorption into 1440 minutes.  I think this is a good sign, and my mind is reeling with newly-realized ambition and purpose and raw, uninhibited drive.  In the meantime, however, my body is lurching back at me, jilted from sleep and clawing for routine. 

Oh no, mattress that's like sleeping on an unforgiving tarp over wood slats.  You can wait.  Eats of Eden needs dorm food updates!

Since I originally got here three months, er, 36 hours ago, I've been drawing constant comparisons to my experience at Concordia.  Which really isn't fair.  I was at Concordia as an undecided, unknowing undergrad, surrounded by dozens of other undecided, unknowing undergrads.  The people here are self-assured and pivoted toward a goal. Not flailing helplessly in a sea of choices that come careening past, flashes of opportunity too fast to see and too early to comprehend.  Living and conversing with them is a whole different dimension than Karen "Why Are You Mad That I Had Sex In Your Bed?" Fellner.  Physically though, this place is fantastic.  There are meandering paths, stately old class halls, and state-of-the-art residential buildings.  You could actually (and I did) GET LOST on this campus.  Not just have a choice between Luther and The Library Building.

The surrounding town is small, but adorably college.  Art, murals, decoupaged signage, painted benches.  For breakfast, me and my super-fabulous roommates walked down to the notorious Maggie's Buns.  Stacked with hand-painted, one-of-a-kind chairs and tables (with a different salt shaker set at every tabletop), retirees, cops, and college kids all crowding in for coffee and confectionery.  The country hipster-baked pastries were arranged in a gilded case that included:


I wish to God this was for sale, but I think they may be as attached to it as I instantly became.

Throwing my resolutions to eat-in to the wind, I ordered juice and a scramble.  I didn't have to feel too guilty: the prices were set for struggling undergrads with single-digit debit card balances. 

When I was living on campus at Concordia, the cafeteria was bought out
at Sodexho.  The food was laughably awful: brown iceburg lettuce in the salad bar bucket, powdered scrambled eggs, deep-fried chicken strips and pizza drowning in a self-contained slick of grease.  I was ecstatic to hear at one of our intro talks that we should "try the salad in the salad bar; it was grown by our students at our eco farm."  The eco farm lettuce, abundant sandwich bar and overflowing freshness didn't disappoint. 

It was so refreshing to know that I'll be taken care of, and not be deprived of non-processed foods for a week and a half.  Also refreshing?  The peace offering of the soda fountain gods:

Everybody can be happy.  Costco, you could learn a lesson here.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Eats of Eden Goes a'schoolin'

Listening to The Airborne Toxic Event and unpacking pens into a light oak drawer.  Yep, I am definitely back in college.  I'm going to be updating Eats of Eden as often as I can with hilarious misadventures that (I'm hoping) will ensue.  Also, just to keep things in check with theme, I'll be re-exploring the world of Dorm Food.

This is what I plan to eat for the next 10 days:

Frozen "gourmet" foods, mostly from Whole Foods.  Some of my favorite brands from my cheese marketing days, like Sukhi's Indian, and stuffed peppers that are endorsed by the Wisconsin Cheese Board.  Do they live up to the reputation, and the hype?  Will I dry up from salt overload and fall over?  Kill someone for a piece of fruit?  Luckily, I do have a car.  I may yet survive.  But we shall see.

Now, to find out how to access the "official" wifi network!  This shitty guest connection is killing me.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


As I know I've mentioned before, I adore Williams-Sonoma.  Is there anything happier than those white and green bags, filled with absolute extravagence for your unsuspecting, spoiled kitchen? 

I need to be honest, though.  Some of those items gracing the crisp magazine covers, and scanned into ridiculous registries, are just nearly useless.  Unitaskers, as Alton Brown would say.  Big, bulky specialty items that you might use once to the mild entertainment and amusement of guests, but then have to store for several ears after until you a. throw another strangely themed party that coincidentally is a perfect fit for it or b. put it out at a yard sale for $5, taking a very deep depreciation.  Cases in point:

Egg Topper
Yes, the chicken handle is "whimsical".  But I don't like soft-boiled eggs, and I certainly don't need to keep this thing around on the off-chance that I throw an English-style brunch with crustless white bread toast strips that need to be dipped in yolk.  I hardly profess to be a practical, clutterless cook, but come on.  Even I draw the line somewhere.

Grilled Meatball Maker Thing
Again, something I've mentioned before, I adore meatballs.  Italian-style, Asian infusion, old school barbecue crock pot... it's all good.  It's one of my special signatures, something I love to serve and play with and know is a stand-by winner.


They're normally reserved for the vast 9-10 month cool weather in Oregon season, not for the blissful summer months.  A little too heavy, and require way too much oven to be practical.  I wouldn't try grilling them, and definitely not on some regular basis that would necessitate this laughable cabinet-crammer.

Jalapeno Grill Tray
Specially-crafted holes made just for jalapenos, just for the grill, just for one side dish/appetizer recipe!  For one season of the year!  I wish I was creative enough to think of something else to do with this thing, but I can't.  And Williams-Sonoma isn't offering any ideas, either.


I saw someone make these things on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives while I was folding laundry last week, and they looked pretty good.  This could be kind of fun to try, I thought today as I was trying to come up with something different to do alongside leftover salmon and Matt's chicken.  But how can I do it without the $20 tray I'd have to drive to Washington Square to get??

Kabob sticks seemed like a good place to start.  They help keep things together, and are definitely grill-friendly.  But getting them to stand up, and not slide through the grates? 


You know, the Pampered Chef one I shill for without compensation.   Just sticking the ends of the kabobs kept them in place, standing up at proper attention.

So, voila.  The ghetto jalapeno griller was born. 

I'm sticking the recipe below, which was based on the specialty I saw on the show that night.  Oh yeah, that is bacon.  My warning and advice would be to make sure that the peppers get very darkly, thoroughly roasted.  Otherwise they will kill you with the heat!  If you want something definitely milder, try stuffing Anaheim peppers.  They're larger and less spicy, but would still work for stuffing and grilling.

Devils in a Sleeping Bag

8 jalapeno peppers (pick the larger ones you can find in the bin)
1 package of reduced fat sour cream, room temperature
1/3 cup shredded pepper jack cheese
1 tsp Penzey's Black & Red Spice
4 slices of thick, applewood bacon, cut in half

Slice off the tops of each jalapeno and, with a small paring knife, take out the inner membrane and seeds.  Once you loosen up the core, you can usually shake it out along with most of the seeds.  You may want to wear gloves, to keep the capcasin from getting into your hands.  Don't touch your eyes; ouch.

In a small bowl, mix together both cheeses and the Penzey's spice.  Start stuffing each pepper by the teaspoonful until they're bursting at the top with cheesy squidginess.  Wrap a half-strip of bacon around the pepper, which you secure by impaling on a pre-soaked kabob stick.  You can fit about 3 on a stick comfortably.  Stand up in the grill basket by letting the ends of the kabob sticks rest in the basket grates.

Grill on high until peppers are soft and throughly grilled and the bacon is crispy.  I think it was like ten minutes, but just hang out and keep an eye on it.

I served mine with leftover salmon sandwiches, based on Burgerville's delicious new item.  Fresh basil-lemon aioli and garden-plucked escarole... I love you, summer.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Hello Pretty!


is a $15 steak.

What led to this splurge?

The prediction, and emergence of, the first 80+ degree day in Portland deserved a good barbecue.  Matt was heading out to do homebrewing with a friend, and I had a bunch of school supply errands (and a special guest appearance at a good friends' garage sale) to do in and around the city.  One of my plans was to go by Whole Foods and get some high-brow microwavable meals to stock the dorm freezer, so I offered to pick up whatever sounded good for dinnertime grilling.

"I want you to go to Whole Foods, and get steak," he said, with little hesitation.  "Don't spend $90," he requested after letting it sink in a minute.

So I made it over to the Whole Foods Bridgeport meat counter, and asked for one rib-eye steak.  You know, just to see how much it cost before committing to 2.  I'm not a huge red meat fan, so I could figure I something else out.

"Anything else I can get for you?"  The friendly butcher asked as I grazed the label sticker.  $15+.

"Nope!  That's it!"

I perused the chicken, but didn't see anything particularly inspiring.  I just had delicious Gartner's German Cheese sausages last night, so the spectacular sausages seemed a little redundant. 

Wait a minute. I still have that gorgeous salmon fillet from my pa-in-law in the freezer.

With the thick, decadent rib-eye and a couple more ingredients (at slightly more budget-friendly Trader Joe's across the freeway), the menu pretty much wrote itself.

-Ribeye Steak with Sweet Cayenne Dry Rub
-Lemon-Butter Salmon with Avocado Oil
-Grilled Corn on the Cob with Chipotle-Lime Butter
-Pasta Salad

I based the Pasta Salad on my summer favorite, caprese.  Super-simple, I can't really call it a recipe (unless I was Sandra Lee or Rachael Ray, and then I could fashion a whole show about it).  Farfalle pasta, Cilegine fresh mozzarella balls, halved cherry tomatoes, basil chiffonade, salt, pepper, Cibo Naturals Red Pepper Pesto (you could use any, homemade or store-bought), and a good drizzle of Macadamia Nut Oil my parents brought me back from Hawaii a while ago.  Allowed to marinate in the fridge for a few hours, and even Matt, hater of all healthy-oriented side dishes, decided he'd rather have that than Rice A Roni.  This was a true, unprecedented victory.

With everything on the grill, it was finally full!  For the first time!  Sending plumes of deliciousness throughout the neighborhood.  The juicy, caveman-sized steak sizzled up quickly, sending large flames that made me almost stick my head in the house for help. I just replaced it up to the higher top rack and figured it would be good while the corn and salmon did their thing.

When I opened the lid and heard a Orville Reddenbacher-esque POP!! from the cob, I figured things were done.  I lifted the foil encasing the salmon up to check for doneness, and the smell carried me instantly to crowded Seattle sidewalks in the sunshine and Pike Place and Metropolitan Market and home
Like the French must feel lifting a lid on cassoulet, or Philadelphians when they fry up some scrapple.  Fresh, sea-salt ocean tinged with lemon and buttery warmth.  Just as iconic as the Space Needle sticking out from my shrubbery.

I'll be eating on this for a few days (by myself; Matt doesn't eat fish), but I think somehow I'll manage.

I did manage to snag a bite of that splurge steak, which cooked up to a perfect medium-rare on that top rack.  Just disintegrated on the tongue tender. 
Maybe I could learn to embrace cow a little more, but I guess my chronically-oversplurging grocery budget would rather I didn't.

I will say, however, that if and when we decide to have something like steak, it is so much more worth spending more on organic and humanely-raised beef, even if it is substantially more.  Our food dollars are a vote, and there's a lot at STEAK here!!!  Ahahahah....

The result is more enjoyable than you can imagine reading straight price tags, and you don't have to wonder or worry about what's actually going inside your body. 

Side effects: putting a little too much of that good stuff inside your body.  That skirt may be a little stretched after the last day or so...

p.s.  Yes those are Halloween plates in June.  Don't judge me.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Spicing Up a Bad Day

Today was not a good day.  Not the worst day ever... no, that was July 27, 2008.  Thus far.  Knock on wood.  But today definitely will live in infamy, if not in my memory, at least on my insurance premium paperwork.  I was on my way to work, feeling a little blah, looking forward to getting through the week and on with life when, BAM! the van in front of me slammed on its brakes.  I immediately followed suit and slammed on mine, but in rush hour traffic I didn't have enough stopping distance to come to a complete stop before the front of my car met with the back end of it.  A fire truck, police car, tow truck and rental car later I was thoroughly shaken up but not hurt, feeling shaky and exhausted and hungry.  Driving like a 90-year-old woman, I pulled into the comfort food mecca closest to the auto body shop and rental car place: Panera Bread.  It was only ten-something in the morning, but I was craving only one thing.  Soup, panini and warmth.

"Can I order lunch?"  I asked hopefully, ignoring the more-appropriate pastries and egg sandwiches beckoning from the breakfast menu.

I was in luck.  Soup was on early today, and they were willing to oblige my crazy ass.  Much more accomodating than McDonald's, those Panera peeps.

"I'll have a Frontega Chicken panini and black bean soup," I said, replacing my normal healthy, diet-friendly Mediterranean Veggie with the warm and gooey grilled favorite.

"We're actually out of black bean soup," she apologized.  "Is there another one you'd like?"

"Umm, that's the only one I ever order.  What would you say is good?" 

"You can't go wrong with Broccoli Cheddar," she said.  Well, actually you can.  Terribly.  Stanley Tucci's Devil Wears Prada line to tiny Anne Hathaway comes to mind... "you know the main ingredient in corn chowder is cellulite."

"Sure.  What the hell."  I willf eat my feelings.

And I did, next to the fireplace and a group of young, preppy moms taking their screaming babies out for coffee.  The joys of Lake Oswego/Tualatin at daytime.

When I came home, I really didn't feel like doing much.  At all.  So, I didn't.  I watched an extremely old episode of Bobby Flay's Boy Meets Grill that looked like it had been filmed in his cousin's loft kitchen with a hand-held Flip camera, and endured half an episode of Guy Fieri making a horrible canneoli bean and bacon mess.  Amidst watching Nigella Lawson goop up cake as only the British can, I fell asleep with Max the kitty overseeing operations.

By the time I woke up, I wasn't sure I was going to want to make dinner.  Ugh, there's crap in the freezer, I thought, popping some Ibuiprofin and another Diet Coke. 

But, there's chicken thighs in the fridge!  Innocent chicken thighs!  Don't waste them!!

FINE, world.  I'll get my ass up.  I still hate you, though.

The unsuspecting chicken thighs were thawing for a new Martha Stewart Food magazine recipe I found in my clip file (which is starting to get a little out of control): Chipotle Chicken & Rice.  The prep was refreshingly simple, and a saving grace on a day when I really didn't want to be there anyway.  It didn't go without following suit with the rest of the day, however; as I was turning the browning chicken in my Le Creuset, a bead of scalding oil shot up and hit me square in the eye.  Through my glasses.  If only the universe would send me the memos when I'm not supposed to get out of bed that day.

Sitting down to a real, homemade dinner that was new and, for Matt, tortilla-friendly, helped us relax.  Much more than a thoughtlessly microwaved burrito in front of the TV ever could have.  Hasty food, hasty meals, it destroys the whole communication dynamic.  We were able to laugh a little, smile, sigh, and realize that, in reality, life wasn't that bad.  We still had the fat cats, and food, and a roof, and this wasn't going to take that away from us.  Better luck next time, world! 

Anyway, I've got to share this recipe.  It's going to be a new favorite.  I should really get a new "favorite" file, so that these gems can rise out of the giant abyss of possibilities. 

Chipotle Chicken and Rice
2 tbsp vegetable oil
4 skinless chicken thighs
Salt and pepper
1 medium onion, thinly sliced lengthwise
3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, minced
2 large tomatoes, diced large
1 cup long-grain rice
Pepper jack cheese or jalapeno gouda, shredded, for topping, if you want to add some more delicious calories
Diced green onions and/or cilantro for topping

In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat oil over medium-high.  Season chicken on both sides with 1 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper.  Working in batches, brown chicken on both sides, about 6 minutes total; transfer to a plate.

Reduce heat to medium.  Add onion and saute until soft, about 5 minutes, scraping up any browned bits from bottom of pot (if necessary, add a bit of water to release brown bits).

Add garlic, cumin, and chiles; cook until garlic is soft and fragrant, 2 minutes.  Add tomatoes and 1 tsp salt and cook until tomatoes begin to break down and release their juices, 3 minutes.  Stir in 1 cup water and return chicken and any accumulated juices to pot.  Cover, reduce to a simmer, and cook 25 minutes.

Remove several pieces of chicken and stir in rice, making sure it is completely submerged in liquid.  Replace chicken, cover, and cook until rice is tender and liquid has been absorbed, 25 to 30 minutes more.  Serve with cheese and green onion toppings, and stick some in a tortilla if you want.

Friday, June 4, 2010


I had a very welcome, very unexpected surprise today - a bonus from work.  This was my first time getting such a coveted treasure, although I've heard of them.  In the past I've either been to tenureless, or just worked for totally shitty companies.  It feels like reaching a new level of grown-up accomplishment.  I've held on to this spot long enough to be eligible for a treat.  Woo hoo! 

So with this new grown-up level of maturity comes a new level of foresight and responsibility, right?  Like, investing the cash or being proactive in paying off pre-existing credit card debt?

PSH.  Whatever.  Why be fiscally responsible when there's Williams-Sonoma?

I came home tonight, hot little check in my chicken purse, and laid my careful plans out.  "I was thinking," I said nonchalantly as I kicked off my shoes, "maybe we should get some new pans."

"Pans?"  He mulled it over, taking his role as the voice of reason quite seriously.  "Well yeah, we do need pans."  We really do.  Aside from my non-stick Calphalon skillet and beautiful All-Clad deep skillet (bought with the bonus card Macy's gave us from our wedding registry), the only pans I have would barely survive a camping trip.  They were in rough shape leaving my mom's kitchen to my first apartment; five years later, and they're barely able to melt butter.  I've resigned myself to the fact that, barring a win on Chopped or 1 vs 100, I'm not going to be able to get myself the gleaming, pre-destined pan set.  At least for the better part of a decade.  I've got to take advantage of bits and pieces, and slowly build my collection on the open-stock market. 

"So, can we go to Williams-Sonoma?"  I asked, like a 5-year-old jonesing for Baskin-Robbins.

"Tonight?"  He groaned, like a 35-year-old having to drag a kid to Baskin-Robbins.

"Why not??"

"We don't need to go tonight," he said in that matter-of-fact, absolutely boring tone.  "We can go on Sunday.  That's a good Sunday drive."

Oh dear.  I don't think so. There is MONEY burning a hole in my chicken purse, and there is no way in hell I'm letting it stay there!  Where it could parlay itself into something practical... the shame!  It was time to pull out the big guns.  "But, you know.... if we went to Washington Square, we could go to......

The Cheesecake Factory

He shook his head, cemented in his defeat.  Cheesecake Factory is Matt's kryptonite.  A card I don't play often, but always to devastating effect. 

Williams-Sonoma is so pristine, elegant and classy, the Nordstrom's of kitchenry.  I love everything about it.  The forest green and pineapple logo.  The polished, perfect pans in their places.  The expensive sauces and mixes that are always worth it.  I could spend the whole night in here, reading meal suggestions on labels, playing with gadgets, and looking at linens.  Matt had other ideas, though.

"So which one are you going to get?"  He asked, pointing squarely at the two I'd shown him in the catalog.

"Which one?"  I didn't think it was going to be a choice.  I thought I was gonna be dual-pannin'.

"Yeah, we can't spend $230 on pans."  Oh :(  I thought we could.

I picked the larger, nonstick lidded skillet.  I have the stainless saute pan for high-heat cooking, so this one will be great of my breakfast eggs and other nonstickables.  It felt heavy and luxurious in my hands, the smooth cool metal thick with craft and promise.  "Don't mess it up," Matt warned as I swiped my card.  "No forks, no scrubby pads."

"I will love it forever," I vowed.

A short wait later, we were in the palace of gluttony, named for the birthplace of the most decadent of desserts.  Despite the exorbitant price tag, and the diet-killing portions (seriously, my salad could have fed a family of four and was topped with ONION RINGS), it's all worth it to see him smile like this.

I guess it works both ways.

Thursday, June 3, 2010


Ah, the dawn of summertime!  Time for the fans to come out of hibernation, sweater sets to go back in, letting the lawn furniture breathe and letting the oven have the season off.

Well, usually.

But as Oregon sets a new record, beating one set back in the 60's for rainfall, the winter gloom just won't go away.  Matt keeps having to cover the barbecue back up, after optimistically letting it breathe.  Thank god for stainless steel. 

By now I expect my counter to be overflowing with colorful cilantro, basil, jalapeno and bell peppers, early berries and technicolor tomatoes.  Instead, my cutting board is still looking like this.

Cremeni mushrooms, shallots and garlic cloves.  Delicious, yes.  But decidedly wintery.  I'd originally placed 'Pork Chops' on the menu to grill, but the persistent rain and chilly breezes kicking up from the west keep me planted inside.  I took a hint from my mom and found a deep, wintery Port finishing sauce from Williams-Sonoma.  This stuff is amazing, but I can't justify buying it for myself unless it's ended up in the blessed short-code basket.  As you can see from the price sticker, this was originally $15.99.  Sure, it's short-coded.  But it's also JARRED.  It's not like buying clearance brie.

I seared the pork chops before roasting in the oven, creating those coveted crusty bits that are so essential to good sauce.  After they were nice and browned, I stuck them in the oven and let the mushrooms, shallots and garlic get their turn in the pan.  I cut the sauce with light sour cream, cutting down on the intense concentration of finishing sauce and a lovely richness. 

As I waited for my potatoes and pork chops to cook up in the oven, I looked longingly out into the yard.  I wanted to be out enjoying fruity frozen cocktails, kabobs and cobbler.  I want ingredients that are fresh-plucked from the earth, not suited for surviving a long cellaring. 

Hey.  There is something out there.

My fledging lettuce, which I've been willing along as best as I can in the absence of nurturing sunshine.  I've abandoned my organic ambitions and bought a big, green, toxic can of SLUG BAIT, sprinkling liberally to fight the bastards that gobble my baby leaves with abandon. 

I started gently tugging at the curly endive, green and red leaf lettuces.  Extremely cautiously, after finding slug larvae in one.  So gross!  I hate, hate, hate the rain and its slimy thriving creatures.  I know it's so much less disgusting than the chemicals and junk that industrial food suppliers dump into lettuce, and that Barbara Kingsolver would roll her eyes at me, but the idea of some impromptu escargot in my homegrown salad makes me kind of want to buy stock in Fresh Express.  I washed the leaves about three times once I got in, then tossed with my favorite Oil and Vinegar Strawberry Black Pepper Vinaigrette, red onion and walnuts. 

They are pretty looking, though.  And tasted nice, too.  I guess, despite Matt's fears, they were ready.

Oh, and please, nobody tell him about the slugs.  He'd never touch home veggies again.

So this is eating seasonally.  Even when it's not the season you'd like.  Yes, it's pretty and pleasant and practical.  Just doesn't hit the sunny, summery spot.